POSTSCRIPT / November 1, 2009 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Chiz to ride reform wave a la Obama?

SHACKLED: When Sen. Chiz Escudero explained last Wednesday his leaving the Nationalist People’s Coalition, his political home of 11 years, he kept saying he did not want to be shackled to the party.

To this jaded observer, being chained (“nakakadena”) could mean that for Escudero to be anointed and bankrolled by businessman Danding Cojuangco (he is the NPC), he was being asked to accept certain conditions of the party boss.

Political patronage is never for free. It comes with strings attached. Depending on how burdensome they are, such strings could be like chains.

To be sure, Escudero is not a cub in the political jungle. He himself must have gotten into compromises before. Still, he must have found NPC chains too heavy for him to carry around his neck for six years.

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THREE OPTIONS: That’s why some questions refuse to go away. Did Cojuangco impose conditions on this 40-year-old presidential wannabe looking for the billions needed for a viable campaign?

The kingmaker is expected to deny having imposed any condition, particularly in exchange for a bulging war chest. Escudero himself has said that his departure was not on account of money.

Asked about his immediate plans after the breakaway, he begged for more time to have everything jell in his mind.

He has only three options: He runs for president, or for vice president, or just waits for his big chance while making his presence felt in the Senate till 2013.

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DOORS CLOSED: To run for president, he will either run under a party or without one. Disdaining party affiliation, however, he said that the true party is the Nation. He gave broad hints he might go it alone.

Realistically, Escudero will need a national machinery without calling it a party. But if he wants to enjoy the rights of political parties, he must register it as such. The registration deadline, however, is over.

He expressed disappointment with his fellow partisans in Congress failing to pass laws to break down the barriers between the rich and the poor, the privileged and the small workers.

He cried for massive change welling up from the grassroots, not from the highest political platforms downwards.

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MACHINERY: Escudero looks poised to attempt a Barack Obama, to be carried on the wave of a clamor for change.

The sad reality facing him and the nation, however, is that no one man can win and run this country used to patronage politics. Not yet, anyway.

If by a long shot, Escudero makes it to the presidency without a party, he will have to invent something to replace the usual political machinery.

A newly elected majority president enjoys enough goodwill to draw wide support in realizing his vision. But while still a candidate, anyone without a party machinery will find it hard to muster adequate vote support and logistics.

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YOUTH SPLIT: Wading in as a partyless presidential candidate, Escudero will be taking a big gamble. But he can always walk back to his Senate seat if he fails.

His drawing support from the youth will take votes away from Sen. Noynoy Aquino (LP). Both will be leaning on the young voters and the clamor for reforms to liberate the country from the shackles of traditional politics.

The splitting of the youth vote, plus the failure of the Commission on Elections to register the hundreds of thousands of young Filipinos just coming of voting age, will work to the advantage of the other candidates of the more traditional mold.

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NO CHOICE: Escudero’s not running under an established party looks, however, like a forced move. He has no choice.

All the big doors have been closed on him. The major parties — the Lakas-Kampi-CMD coalition, the Liberal Party, the Nacionalista Party and the Partido ng Masang Pilipino — have chosen their respective standard bearers already.

While those groups were consolidating, Escudero was watching the grass grow under his feet. Although he more or less had the NPC nomination in the bag, he did not have much say in choosing his running mate and Senate slate.

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WHO’S VEEP?: If Escudero slides down and aims for the vice presidency, he will face the problem of how to tag along a front-running presidential aspirant.

He had burned his bridges before reaching them. He prematurely shut out options with personal attacks that were unnecessary.

He railed against the Arroyo administration, thereby jeopardizing his possibly running with Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, the administration’s presidential candidate.

Without provocation, he also attacked Sen. Manuel Villar, the NP standard bearer. If he now wants to ask Villar to take him as his vice presidential partner, it could be awkward.

Escudero could be a running mate of PMP presidential bet Joseph “Erap” Estrada, had not Makati Mayor Jojo Binay beaten him to it by maneuvering faster.

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GIBO-LOREN: There is another combination playing in my mind. Remember that the Arroyos in the Palace are now palsy-walsy with Danding Cojuangco, who has always been around whenever the First Couple needs financial, huh, advice.

With Cojuangco having rid himself of Escudero — thus eliminating him as a serious presidential contender — the NPC head is now free to deal a Teodoro-Legarda tandem with the Palace.

With Escudero out, it was logical that Sen. Loren Legarda would try moving up. Instead, she kept saying, as if from a script, that she just wanted to be vice president. Lately, btw, she has warmed up to President Arroyo.

The odd makers, however, have not ruled out her possibly ending up with Villar.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 1, 2009)

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